The importance of a dealer test drive has been highlighted by research into the driver appeal of in-car connectivity.
A survey of 3,700 connected car owners in Europe revealed there is interest in connected cars, in particular navigation, driver assistance and in-car entertainment. And 59% of respondents said that connected features influenced their choice of vehicle and 32% saying it was an important criteria when buying.
The study also highlighted the importance of ‘on-boarding’ customers during the sales process, with 48% of drivers who use connected features saying that the technology was demonstrated to them in the showroom, which is why test drives are growing in importance.
Explaining and showing the technical capabilities of the car early in the sales process is critical to the uptake and use of connectivity, the survey revealed.
“OEMs also need better training for dealership staff to demonstrate the benefits of connectivity. Customers often complained that dealership staff didn’t know enough about how the connected features worked, with many buyers saying they knew almost as much themselves,” Remy Pothet, global automotive sector head at TNS – which carried out the research with BearingPoint Institute - said.
In the UK, 38% of respondents said connected features were not demonstrated to them by dealer staff. Across the whole survey group, 49% of drivers didn't know they were already driving cars with connected features.
However, vehicle makers are struggling to use connectivity features to open new revenue streams, build stronger relationships with customers and boost brand awareness.
This is leaving the door open for companies like Uber and Apple, which are already investing in infotainment and geo-location functions, to steal market share in this area.
“Car manufacturers need to act fast if they are to avoid being overtaken by the big tech players.
“Smartphones are already integrating entertainment and navigation functionality with existing on-board systems, such as Apple’s Car Play and the Google powered Open Automotive Alliance.
“Smartphone apps can help drivers find their cars if they’ve forgotten where they parked, unlock them remotely and even prepare the interior temperature long before the driver arrives.
“OEMs therefore need to find ways to either partner with tech companies or invest in them as Audi, BMW and Mercedes have recently done with their $3 billion purchase of the Nokia/Microsoft HERE map and navigation platform to make their features even better than the software specialists’ products.”
Sarah-Jayne Williams, partner at BearingPoint, said: “Connected cars are the beginning of a new era in automotive.
“OEMs are moving from a primarily B2B to a B2C model where they have the opportunity to build direct relationships with their customers.
“Even what they sell is changing: from selling physical products, they are now selling a platform of digital services.
“Our study shows that the German premium OEMs are so far leading the way in terms of the quality and useability of their features.
“To really exploit this new era, all OEMs need to invest to ensure customers are aware of and are enjoying these connected features.”
The survey was carried out in UK, France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Netherlands and the Nordic states and covered Jaguar, BMW, Volvo, Land Rover, Audi, VW, Ford, Porsche, Mercedes-Benz, Peugeot and Renault.